by Kirsten Hubbard
Published by: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 13, 2012
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About (from GoodReads):
It all begins with a stupid question:
Are you a Global Vagabond?
No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.
Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.
But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.
Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry to this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story
This book grabbed my attention and was placed on my to read list because of its exotic location and the part about young adults backpacking. I went back packing after college with a friend and it has always stood out in my mind as a great experience. I wasn't running from my life, however, and so I was curious where this story would go. I also wanted to remember the experience of immersing oneself in a foreign place and trying to navigate at a time you are just learning to navigate you own life.
The formula here is very close to that of the epic road adventure book. A well known example of this style is Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. In this sort of story a girl embarks on a trip that doesn't quite go as planned, all the while trying to deal with something from her life or recent past. Often there is a male that accompanies the main character that results in a slow building of a relationship, though the relationship is never the main purpose of the story. Usually the character comes to terms with whatever the problems are in her life or at least makes a good start in that direction. If these stories are the type you enjoy then you will like this one.
The main character is running from her past. Bria has recently had her heart broken and the worst part is that she lost so much of who she was in the process. She wants to do something out of character and unexpected. She hopes to leave the person she has become behind and forget everything by being bold and reckless, even if it is out of character for her. She decides the best way is to take an exciting trip. After finding herself in a completely different scenario than the one she had dreamed about she gets the opportunity to strike out with two experienced back packers.
As the story progresses we learn more about what Bria is running from while also watching her find her own voice again. All of this occurs with an exotic back drop and a cagey, and at times frustrating, travel companion named Rowan. Along the way the characters discover the road to healing. I enjoyed watching Bria reclaim who she is and who she wants to be. The evolving relationships with her travel companions are nicely done, though one leaves early into the adventure. The potential romance with Rowan is slow burning and doesn't ignite immediately. The pace is done perfectly because it is born out of the closeness and intimacy of depending on someone in a strange place while stemming from a delicate friendship. Both Rowan and Bria are in vulnerable places in their lives, and both have a lot of trust issues. Neither wants to completely let the other one in as they try to navigate their budding friendship.
I really enjoyed this book. The characters are well developed with both great qualities and flaws. The author is a backpacker herself and you can really tell this in the details. It is easy to imagine being in these foreign places the way things are described. This added dimension of backpacking in an exotic local gives the book a fresh feel. If the epic road adventure is your kind of story then I encourage you to pick up this book.